The narrator claims that the world is full of ordinary people who are divided into two camps: those who are more intelligent and realize that they are ordinary, and those who are less intelligent and therefore do not. Ganya, Varya and Ptitsyn are all very ordinary people. Ganya belongs to the more intelligent camp; realizing his own mediocrity, he continuously strives for originality. He tries to take things to the extreme but is always stymied by his own honesty or prudence. Varya also wishes she were more original, but she attempts to realize her desires through persistent and practical action. In trying to increase his brother's chances with Aglaya, for instance, Varya befriends the Yepanchins, slowly but surely trying to gather information and speaking to the Yepanchin girls about her brother.

A week has passed since the meeting of Prince Myshkin and Aglaya near the park bench. Varya returns from the Yepanchins' to her own house where, along with she and her husband, Ptitsyn, now live Ganya, General Ivolgin, Nina Alexandrovna, Kolya, and even Hippolite. Varya returns saddened; upon finding her brother, who has just had another fight with their father, she tells him that Myshkin and Aglaya are formally engaged. The engagement is to be announced this evening during a dinner party attended by many guests.

Varya thinks Myshkin and Aglaya really do have serious feelings for each other, although she also suggests that Aglaya chose the prince merely to stir up her family. General Ivolgin has been uncovered as the man who stole the 400 rubles. Varya and Ganya tried to keep this from their mother, but she found out anyway; Ganya thinks Hippolite told her. Hippolite has been writing to Aglaya; Ganya suggests that the boy is in love with Aglaya as well. Ganya says he hates Hippolite.

Five days after Hippolite moves into Ptitsyn's house, he enrages General Ivolgin by suggesting one of the general's stories is not true. The general announces to the entire family that they must choose between him and Hippolite. Ganya tells his father that Hippolite was probably right, which leads to another heated argument. The general says he is leaving the house. Ganya turns to Hippolite and angrily tells the boy he should not have provoked the general. Ganya then insults Hippolite with a reference to his unsuccessful suicide. Hippolite replies that he hates Ganya because he is the perfect representative of mediocrity; he then adds that Ganya has no chances with Aglaya. Hippolite says he is about to move out of Ptitsyn's house and into an apartment of his own, which his mother has rented for him.

Ganya shows Varya a note Aglaya wrote to him, which suggests that she, Ganya, and Varya meet at seven o'clock in the morning the next day at the park bench. Ganya gloats with pride.

General Ivolgin leaves the house. Although this was not the first time something like this happened with the general, this time is particularly odd. The general has been acting strangely all week, displaying sudden mood changes and acting very excitable and nervous on the whole. The narrator says that, as human motivations are so complex, he will just tell the events just as they happened.